Newsletter Edition 30The Chemicals White Paper:
The Chemicals White Paper has arrived in my office - all 1,300 pages of it!-and it looks as though I will have a great deal of reading to do and technical advice to seek over the Christmas Recess. The potentially damaging implications of this huge document on the European Chemical Industry in general, and the British sector in particular, are enormous. Already I have been lobbied by many pan-European organisations and British-based companies and have become one of the Centre-Right's "Shadows" who will oversee the progress of this White Paper through Parliament, seeking to amend and improve it. As the Environment Minister who put on the Statute Book-amongst many other things-the legislation setting up the Environment Agency, I take no strictures from the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth about the vital need for sustainable development. We must work with the grain of industry not against it. The targets for sustainability should constantly seek to improve the environment, and industry must realise that. But playing the card of the so-called "precautionary principle", whereby no process is safe and must be regulated out of existence, is a nonsensical Green / Liberal policy which has to be exposed as seriously detrimental to jobs, processes and profits.
Commissioner Wallstrom ( a Green Swede) wants all chemicals used in all production processes to be tested, re-tested, evaluated, registered and authorised! With 50,000+ individual chemicals in current use, the prospects are daunting in the extreme and since the testing is directed chiefly at human safety, these requirements will necessitate a vastly increased number of experiments on animals.
We also have an administrative problem within the Parliament as to how we should proceed with this controversial issue, namely whether the lead committee should be Industry or Environment. This is important, since the views of each committee are slanted toward different interests and the result could be very different. As six of the eight sections are industry-orientated, I and my Conservative colleagues believe that it should come to that committee but the Green/Liberal/Left alliance thinks differently. The same people also want this completed before the European elections next June - hopelessly unrealistic - whereas we want the matter considered carefully and sensibly, so as to arrive at a Directive which sets realistic targets and which helps rather than hinders technological development.
I have been appalled at the recent draft proposals published by the Boundary Committee for England which suggest new unitary authorities for the North West. Not only do they probably destroy the ancient Shire Counties but also break up existing Boroughs, amalgamate bits and pieces of different communities and suggest alternative council structures which are wholly unnecessary, unwanted and unrepresentative of local residents' opinions. They must be fought. If you share my view, in whole or in part, may I suggest that you send an objection to the Boundary Committee for England at the following address: www.boundarycommittee.org.uk
Conservative Party policy is to oppose the Regional Assembly and the Regional Referendum (although we shall vote "No" in it). In the circumstances, therefore, I shall write simply to oppose the introduction of unitary authorities and the destruction of our Shire and Borough/District Councils. i.e. "none of the above". All such objections will be recorded in the Final Report.
You may recall my concerns, and that of the precious metals industry, about the Italian Presidency proposal to abolish hall-marking. I hope, therefore that you will be delighted to lean that we have won the day and that the plan has been shelved indefinitely. The ancient and well-known British tradition of assaying gold and silver is safe - thanks to British Conservatives.
As one involved in public life, I am approached regularly by Opinion Pollsters- representing various Companies, Charities, Lobbies etc - for my views on the state of the world. Frankly, I and many of my colleagues have become somewhat fed up with the constant questioning but recently our interrogators have begun to offer donations of £50 or so to our favourite charity. The sums mount up over time and I have suddenly realised the attraction of Opinion Pollsters!
It is excellent news that President Bush has removed the tariffs that he imposed on US steel imports a few months ago. It shows the power and influence that the EU can wield when there is a necessity to do so. Conservative MEPs played a significant part in pressing the Commission to stand up to the USA and we can, therefore, claim some of the credit!
I continue to pursue Commissioner Lamy over trade issues in general and the collapse of the World Trade Negotiations in particular. He was present at my committee last week and I think that he realises that I and other Tory MEPs will not let this matter drop. He is reassessing the EU position urgently and is hoping to take the initiative in reopening the discussions as soon as possible - so essential to the developing world.
New Leader visits Brussels:
The new Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, visited his Tory MEPs in Brussels last week and we had the opportunity to exchange views about current issues. We were able to tell him about the huge improvement in morale amongst Conservative supporters, the new and lapsed members wanting to join the Party, and the increase in activity and financial contributions since his assumption of the Leadership. There is definitely a new mood and a will to win that presages trouble for our beleaguered and devalued Labour Government.
Sri Lankan strife:
I had the opportunity to discuss the present "state of emergency" in his country with the Sri Lankan Ambassador last week. I spent a working holiday in that beautiful island last year, when I was able to hear from the Prime Minister about his progress towards resolving the problems with the "Tamil Tigers." I have been saddened, therefore, by the argument between the President and Prime Minister which has halted the talks and put the search for peace on hold.
Nominations for the (Management) Bureau of the Conservative Delegation closed this week and I am privileged to have been re-elected unopposed. This year is very important for us as it includes the European Parliamentary Elections next June, so there is much to be done.
North West Development Agency:
Michael Jack MP and I were the only Tories at a visit to the North West Development Agency last month, in the company of numerous Labour MP's and MEPs. I have somewhat mixed views about the NWDA, although I had Ministerial responsibility for its predecessor, NORWIDA, some fifteen years ago. I worry about accountability, about its property portfolio and about its policy of trying to spot 'commercial winners'. I wonder about the costs of its administration, the growing number of employees and the questionable bureaucracy that it represents. In other words, is it worth its existence or is it a serious waste of money? It does need a thorough review - which it will never get under a Labour Government.
Finally , may I take this opportunity of wishing you all the Compliments of the Season, coupled with high hopes for yet greater success for the Conservative Party in 2004.